Post-postmodernism and the Emergence of Heterolinational Literatures

Post-postmodernism and the Emergence of Heterolinational Literatures

Mehdi Ghasemi


Following the challenge by Linda Hutcheon inviting readers to name the era after postmodernism, several scholars have attempted to conceptualize the aftermath of postmodernism through introducing some successors. To join the challenge, I also introduce “heterolinationalism” as another successor to postmodernism and draw upon some paradigms of heterolinational literatures, including postacademia, postnationalism and polyliterature, polyvocalism and plurilingualism, self-publishing, social media and multimediality as well as transtextuality and fanfiction.

Key Words
exophony; fanfiction; heterolinational literatures; heterolinationalism; post-postmodernism; polyliterature; postmodernism; postnationalism; postacademia; social media; transtextuality


1. Introduction

There is a shared sense among a number of critics and scholars that we are now living in the post-postmodern era. Accordingly, following the challenge by Linda Hutcheon,[1] several attempts have been made to label and claim successors to postmodernism. The following labels, including hypermodernism,[2] automodernism,[3] digimodernism,[4] metamodernism[5] and hyperhybridism,[6] have been offered; however, “none of these [labels] has yet made it to mainstream usage.”[7] The introduction of a variety of labels for post-postmodernism signifies the multidirectionality of the era and shows the lack of conviction over the feasibility of one single term to cover wide ranges of sociopolitical, cultural, technological, digital, and aesthetic dimensions of post-postmodernity.

In this paper, I develop yet another heir to postmodernism that I call “heterolinationalism.” Here, “hetero” signifies “diverse or containing different types.” The term “linational” is a combination of “lingual” and “national,” and the whole term “heterolinational literatures” includes all types of literary works produced in different languages by natives and immigrants as well as academic and non-academic society members within multicultural and multilingual societies.[8] I argue that we have moved into a new literary period, wherein literature is continuously evolving into a diversity of postnational, postlingual, and postethnic literatures, and we have been drawn beyond limited scopes of nation, nationalism, and national literature into heterolinational identities. Accordingly, heterolinational writers are enmeshed in multiple bonds of belonging created by a proliferation of cultures, ethnicities, languages, and identities. Moreover, characters, migrating from different eras and areas, import their own diversity of nationalities, languages, and cultures to texts and generate an aura of heterolinationalism. I also discuss how heterolinationalism has touched the publishing industry and has diversified outlets for publication. Furthermore, I look into transtextuality and fanfiction as another coordinate of heterolinationalism, showing how rewriting pre-existing ideas and passages is affected by rewriters’ orientations, including languages and nationalities. To this end, I elaborate on paradigms of heterolinationalism in literature, culture, and social media, including postacademia, postnationalism and polyliterature, polyvocalism and plurilingualism, self-publishing, social media and multimediality as well as transtextuality and fanfiction. I also discuss how these paradigms create new rearrangements in the world of literature and reshape our outlooks, readings, and interpretations.

2. Heterolinational Writers: Postacademia, Postnationalism, Polyliterature

John Carlos Rowe writes that “despite the frequent use of satire and parody, the postmoderns show special respect for academic modes of writing, and many postmodern writers come from academic communities.”[9] However, heterolinationalism challenges the dominance of the canons set by the literary elite and moves beyond academia. In post-postmodernity, lingual and literary elitism no longer dominates the literary world and heterolinational writers, coming from different communities and backgrounds, including academic and non-academic, local and immigrant, high and folk, and native and non-native, extend the aesthetics of writing and offer a vast array of literary works in different contents and contexts. In other words, heterolinationalism fosters all the outputs by these literary and cultural alliances, variegating literary forms and contents. This is also to counter the high-cultural aesthetic forms established by dominant elites and further pave the way for postacademic trends in literature. American culture scholar De Villo Sloan refers to this postacademic trend as “postliterature,” wherein fiction writing “evolve[s] outside the academy, correcting the attempt by universities to institutionalize and control literature.”[10] Consequently, we witness postacademic turns in authorship and transformation in the patterns and practices of literary writings in post-postmodernity.

In such a heterolinational climate, the number of writers who are not the native speakers of a language or do not have academic degrees increases, and to facilitate the publication of their works and enhance their readability and visibility, a number of them write their works in non-native but dominant or international languages. However, since their native languages, literatures, cultures, and histories are deeply rooted in them, they cannot dissociate themselves from those native roots. Accordingly, their writings include and reflect their personal, historical, national, cultural, and lingual orientations. There are numerous cases of exophonic, non-native-speaker, immigrant, and hyphenated writers who do not belong to one single national and geographical literature. As a fiction writer, my own mother tongue is Persian and I have studied and lived in Finland for more than a decade, but I write my fiction books in English. This is to negotiate a minority discourse via the dominant tongue reappropriated for my objectives. Some of my books, including Flight to Finland (2016), How I Became a W Finn (2017), and Finnish Russian Border Blurred (2018), written in the hybrid genre of noveramatry — a combination of novel, drama, and poetry all in one line — draw upon Finnish culture, history, and society, while some others, including A Farewell to the Earth and Kepler-438b (2019), deal with world concerns. The multifaceted identity enables me to bring several literary canons, cultures, languages, and literatures together in one single text; while owing to uncategorized multitudes, the books have a sense of non-belongingness to neither Persian nor Finnish and English literatures.

As one of the most notable contemporary exophonic writers, Jhumpa Lahiri also does not link herself to one singular national and lingual literature. Born in England to Bengali parents and raised in the USA, Lahiri used to write her fictions in English. However, she later abandoned English as the successful medium of her literary writing and wrote her novel Dove mi Trovo (2018) in Italian. Writing Italophone works grants this heterolinational author an opportunity to branch out into a new voice and challenge the solidity of her identity as an Anglophone American-Bengali author. This is to say that, in the heterolinational era, postethnic and multiracial authors stand poised between several potential cultures, identities, literatures, and tongues, including mother tongues, stepmother tongues, and adopted tongues. In this climate, authors are no longer confined to one single land and language, canon and culture, and, hence, their literary products become kaleidoscopic.  According to Grazia Micheli, “[i]n a world where people are increasingly crossing borders, and where it would be myopic to continue to keep literatures and languages within closed national compartments, Lahiri endorses a sort of postnationalism that releases languages from any essential link to a particular culture or country and vice versa.”[11] Viewed in this light, the emergence of a myriad of postlingual, postethnic, and postnational literatures in heterolinationality fosters polyliterature.

It is worth noting that since exophonic writers are not native speakers of their adopted languages, their texts might not read as natural and native in the eyes of native readers. As Lahiri notes in In Other Words, “[w]hen I write in Italian, I feel like an intruder, an imposter. The work seems counterfeit, unnatural. I realize that I’ve crossed over a boundary, that I feel lost, in flight.”[12] Julie Hakim Azzam confirms Lahiri’s self-appraisal comment when she writes: “Writing in Italian gave Lahiri a license to be imperfect. Buried under all the mistakes, all the rough spots, is something precious. A new voice, crude but alive.”[13] By a similar token, Shaj Mathew notes that “Italian gives Lahiri the freedom to err: she can experiment, revel in her new linguistic identity – play. In order to evolve as a writer, the freedom afforded by an alien tongue was necessary – even if, or precisely because, she will inevitably make mistakes.”[14] However, not all critics, like Azzam and Mathew, are open to mistakes by exophonic authors, and as sites of substandard textuality, such heterolinational literary outputs are criticized. Even deliberate flaws and innovative wordplays are sometimes misinterpreted as ungrammatical and attributed to the writer’s negligence or imperfect command of the acquired languages. However, we should note that when non-native speakers acquire a second or foreign language, they contemplate words and phrases, repeat them, dissect their syllabi, letters and sounds as alien objects, and compare them to their counterparts in their native languages. This process, which is not exercised by native speakers of the same language, enables non-native-speaker writers to approach components of languages from different perspectives and generate, for example, puzzling wordplays. Moreover, as the sites of multiculturalism and multilingualism, the heterolinational texts might not be well-understood by readers of other cultures and, hence, the merits and messages of works might remain unacknowledged.

My experience as a director of a literary project on immigrant literature in Finland shows that as a result of some pressures, including discrimination, publication rejection, harsh criticism, sales fiasco, lack of visibility and readability, some immigrant authors residing in Finland internalize criticism, lose their motivation, and withdraw from the literary scene. Heterolinationalism strongly opposes the dominant canons, which resist the formation of any “de-aligned” subcultures to preserve the homogeneity and uniformity of their language and culture. The canons, which frustrate neo-writers, still maintain that “all fictional narratives are . . . about form, about structure, about language.”[15] Based on this stand, the form, structure, and language of literary works determine their values and rankings, while a literary product does not solely consist of form and language, and miscellaneous components make the whole of it.

Rowe argues that “if literature is simply a function of all language use, relatively foregrounded or backgrounded in any given speech act, then the existing institutions of literature and its study must be deconstructed to reveal the ways they have served to legitimize the false distinctions and dangerous hierarchies of ‘high art’ over popular culture.”[16] To those who still adhere to such hierarchies and distinctions, every literary work should follow the prevailing literary canons. Otherwise, they are underrated. By the same token, the exophonic, hyphenated, and immigrant authors who do not write their works in languages of their adopted homes also have the potential to be neglected by radical incommensurability principles of monolingual and homogeneous societies. As an example, the policy of Finnish Writers’ Union, which deprives authors writing in languages other than Finnish from its membership along with the rights and benefits that their Finnish counterparts are entitled to, is a vivid case of otherization and discrimination against exophonic, immigrant, and subgroup authors.

Such exclusionary practices and unacknowledged deprivation that aim to align and homogenize literature forms a ghettoization of ethnic literatures within a nation and create distances between the racialized and the racializing groups. Consequently, in such a fractured heterolinational society literature is compartmentalized, and the hyphenated and immigrant authors, who are already marginalized socially, are doubly marginalized culturally. Heterolinational politics confront and destabilize the literary ghettoization and pose incredulity towards such “normative parameters within which one language-game or discourse is authorized at the expense of disenfranchising every other proposition made from the stance and vocabulary of a different language-game.”[17] Such a logocentric and homogeneous system that favors unification “subsumes all language-games under the rubric of his own, thus silencing the dissenting voices of any minority, ethnic or otherwise.”[18] Thomas Docherty believes that imposing one dominant discourse on all other ethnic groups and “deem[ing] illegitimate or illegible any other language-game which fails to conform to our percepts and vocabulary” is not acceptable.[19]

Building on Docherty’s remarks, I argue that the heterolinational literary works should not be measured based on a set of preestablished rules and conventional parameters. Otherwise, their merits – because of differences in their languages, forms, contents, and cultures – remain unseen. In other words, heterolinational politics highlight positionings of different groups participating in literary and cultural contribution, since each group exchanges its own cultural and literary properties with other groups and enriches the whole canon. Vijay Prashad refers to this state as “polyculturalism,” which questions purity, primacy, and privilege of one culture over others within a nation and encourages an active and strategic accumulation of all cultures. According to Prashad, polyculturalism “draws from the idea of polyrhythms – many different rhythms operating together to produce a whole song, rather than different drummers doing their thing.”[20] In such a pluralistic ensemble, the performance of one note and use of one single instrument brings about boredom to the audience, making them wonder why the conductor does not use the potential of the whole orchestra.

In heterolinationality, literature, or rather literatures, attempt(s) to emancipate themselves from homogeneity and defined “normality,” since there is not one single form of sublime writing. I use the plural form of literatures, because there are as many literatures as there are writers. The tendency of the heterolinational literatures is to establish and expand ties between high and low cultures, native and non-native usage of languages, and local and immigrant literatures and, through their relationships, all parties find opportunities to express themselves. The dialogues among different positions and the emergence of new voices extend the frontiers of postethnic, postnational and postlingual polyliterature. Such dialogues also diversify literary canons and manifest cultural and literary innovation inherent in heterolinational literatures.

3. Heterolinational Characters: Polyvocalism and Plurilingualism

While (non)academic exophonic, immigrant and hyphenated writers use their non-native languages as a medium of literary writing, some writers employ non-native characters from different ethnic and national backgrounds and simulate their dialects and accents in their literary works. To simulate the characters’ ways of speaking, writers consider characters’ backgrounds, language proficiency, and literacy level. For instance, an illiterate character who has recently learned English as a foreign language surely errs when speaking. To have all characters speak alike is to think of all characters — educated and illiterate, male and female, young and old, poor and rich, local and non-native — to have one single lifestyle and class. Docherty refers to it as “the tendency to homogenize the heterogeneity of language-games under the rubric of a totalizing system.”[21]

In Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy (2001), Alem Kelo, a teenager who moves from Ethiopia to England with his father, speaks an African dialect. For example, while the immigration officer is checking their passports at the London airport, “Alem jerk[s] his father’s hand and stop[s] suddenly. ‘Abbaye, yaw teguru tekatlowal,’ he said, brimming with excitement.”[22] After his father urges him to speak only English, he starts speaking the language. However, as the story discloses, “his English wasn’t great.”[23] This is seen while Alem reads the notices in the taxi from the airport to their hotel: “No smok-ing. Li-censed Hack-ney Car-riage.”[24] His way of reading, splitting words into syllables, shows that he is not fluent in English. The narrator also comments on his English language skills: “[Alem] was trying his best to understand what was being said but most of the time he just couldn’t keep up with the pace of people’s speech. From the moment that he landed he noticed that the English that he was hearing was very different from the English he had been taught at school. . . . When Alem couldn’t take it any longer, he switched off the television.”[25] As the excerpt shows, Alem’s English is not perfect, and he wishes “to make [his] English better.”[26] Despite this, he shows no flaws while using English throughout the novel! While discussing the novel in a course, some students thought of Alem’s language proficiency as unnatural and artificial. However, if Zephaniah had naturally represented his protagonist’s lingual flaws in writing, his work might have been misjudged and classified as poor literature.

In “Making Meaning with Mistakes,” Mieke Bal disagrees with seeing literature as the domain par excellence that contains no mistakes.[27] Rather, Bal discusses that “willfully made mistakes” by authors “shake up the automatism with which readers presuppose transparency” and “irritate and thus alert readers.”[28] A number of heterolinational authors go for “willful imperfection”[29] in their works even at the cost of being misinterpreted. For example, the Canadian author Jonathan Sun, known as Jonny Sun, has been criticized for his fiction book, entitled everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too (2017), which is the illustrated story of a lonely alien visiting the earth. Sun has done his best to envisage and simulate the ways an alien might speak English. To imitate the alien in a natural way, he changed the spellings of words and grammar of sentences to express in word the ways an alien speaks English. Later, he learned that those mistakes had been ascribed to him by some critics, who think of literature as products of perfection, wherein any mistake can denigrate writers and their entire works. In this regard, Terry Eagleton writes that “[i]t is hard for fiction to make mistakes.”[30] If writers misspell words, they are judged as negligent writers who have not edited their texts well or do not benefit from high literacy skills. In consequence, “error . . . is criminal in the eyes of the white fathers, the acknowledged legislators,”[31] and such a criminality results in the devaluation of authors and their works. Critic Sophie Chou, however, defends Sun’s writing style while asking, “if an alien landed on Earth, how would it speak?” She then quotes Sun who says, “an alien would probably sound something like a curious toddler prone to typos.”[32] Like other critics, Chou agrees that Sun’s writing style is riddled with misspellings and typos; however, she justifies that “these aren’t just accidental typos.”[33] To support her position, Chou quotes linguist Gretchen McCulloch, who notes: “By adjusting the spelling, or the grammar, or how you put the words together, you’re indicating that you’re feeling so excited, or overwhelmed, or tired, or sad, or emotional in general that you can’t even string words together.”[34] Resonating with Chou’s and McCulloch’s views, I argue that, despite being criticized, heterolinational writers consider various loci while presenting their characters in textuality.

Mark Currie identifies “three time loci which structure the communication: the time locus of the narrated, the time locus of the narrator, and the time locus of the reader.”[35] I wish to add nine more loci to the three time loci, introduced by Currie. They are “orientation loci,” “geographical loci,” and “language loci,” each of which is applied to the “narrated,” “narrator,” and “reader.” If these loci are not taken into account while writing or reading a literary work, the work is colored with monotony and monolithicity. To embed different loci in her novel Americanah (2013), Nigerian American author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has created a polyvocal text, using different languages of various locales and cultures in parallel. Adichie adopts English as the main language of writing, while at the same time she interpolates Igbo. In Americanah, which also has a bilingual title and holds a specific meaning to Nigerian readers, she does not translate or explain the terms and phrases written in Igbo. Rather, to readers who do not read Igbo, she suggests using Google Translate: “Google is fantastic. If people are interested, they can look something up.”[36] She has been aware that using such a lingual locus would have the risk of losing readership; rather, she decides to share different dimensions of her mentality with her readers through the employment of plurilingualism. When she is asked about her intention of using diglossia, Adichie replies, “I wanted to remind the reader that you’re reading conversations between characters who are mostly not speaking English.”[37] In this climate, Adichie’s frequent inclusion of Igbo words and phrases highlights rather than hides differences. To avoid sameing writings, heterolinational writers interpolate different loci and create polyvocality and plurilingualism to represent voices of alterity, even at the risk of being denigrated.

4. Heterolinational Publishers: Self-publishing, Social Media and Multimediality

Coupled with literary agents and critics and endorsed by some literary and cultural organizations, commercial publishers have great potentials to make authors and their works visible. Any piece of writing that fails to win the support of such established literary channels and cultural-critical bodies have less chances of receiving recognition in the world of literature. Traditional publishers, which first and foremost think of profit and convention, do not take any risks to publish works that might fail in the market. This trend might result in the production of profit-oriented literature. However, in heterolinationality, subgroup writers, who have difficulty breaking into print by traditional publishers, have a variety of other means, including self-publishing and social media, to release their writings, and all roads lead to Rome. This is to say that in post-postmodernity, writing is no longer about publishing but writing, and owing to diversity of publishing outlets, one can find a publishing venue.

Amanda Hocking, who used self-publishing to publish her books, including the My Blood Approves series (2010) and Trylle Trilogy (2013), is a good example. After selling more than a million copies of her books on Amazon, Hocking signed a two-million-dollar deal with St. Martin’s. Likewise, Rachel Abbott’s first book, Only the Innocent (2011), reached the top spot on the Kindle store in 2011 and has been named Amazon’s bestselling independent author in the UK for the previous five-year period. There are some other writers who have had a better experience with self-publishing than traditional publishers. As an example, Glen Duncan’s previous seven novels, published between 1997 and 2009 by commercial publishers, turned out to be a fiasco in sales and readership. As he discloses, “Having published seven overtly literary novels that had been . . . read by virtually no one, the thought of writing another made me feel homicidal and ill. I didn’t feel any less homicidal or ill when my agent informed me that if I did write another overtly literary novel, he wouldn’t be able to sell it.”[38] However, after this British author desperately self-published his trilogy, starting with The Last Werewolf (2011) and accompanied by Tallulah Rising (2012) and By Blood We Live (2014), he did not expect to be so well received.

In addition to self-publishing outlets, writers have the possibility to release their literary works in social media platforms. Behrouz Boochani, who typed and released his novel, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Maunus Prison (2019), in pieces on a messaging service, is a good example in this context. As a Kurd asylum seeker detained for five years by Australia on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island in the Pacific, Boochani chronicled his experiences and depicted his pains as a refugee in that island by typing notes on his cell phone, and then he released passages of his writings in WhatsApp. As he said, “WhatsApp is like my office. I did not write on paper, because at that time the guards each week or each month would attack our room and search our property. I was worried I might lose my writing, so it was better for me to write it and just send it out.”[39] To his great surprise, the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Australia’s highest-paying literary prize, was awarded to this heterolinational writer.

The publication of literary works on social media platforms shows that, as multimodule and ubiquitous tools, social media have created unprecedented possibilities to augment diversity of outlets for publishing. As widely accessible tools to all users, regardless of their loci and orientations, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, TikTok, and the like increase global interaction among users and create heterolinational collective effervescence. However, copyright issues are violated in such interactive platforms, because right after creating and sharing posts with the public, the agency is transferred from authors to users, who have the possibility to alter forms and contents of posts and forward them to other users under their own names. The reformation of textuality makes it hard to detect whether senders have created posts from scratch, retouched them, or simply forwarded them as they are. Thus, to live in heterolinationality is to have no sense of ownership for posts and cultural products exchanged in social media platforms, and in such outlets authorship and copyright issues are always under question.

Owing to the multiplicity of users with different languages, nationalities, cultures, and orientations, posts are diverse and non-linear. While one post is funny, the next one generates intense sadness. While one post meets our interests, the other one irritates and even enrages us as it challenges our biases or opens our eyes to a social crisis or a political corruption. As a result of non-linearity, if one misses some posts, one does not lose anything special. In addition to non-linearity, social media products are usually ephemeral. Owing to their transient effects, the posts that one reads today might be forgotten under the pile of new posts they receive the other day. Furthermore, one can become famous with a couple of viral posts or clips, circulated rapidly and widely, but the fame in such cases is short-lived.

Because of the myriad of users with the possibility of creating and sharing content, a conduit for misleading and true information also recurs in the social media. Just like making fake content, some users create several accounts with fake identities, creating numerous posts under different names. Regardless of their identities — real or fake, single or multiple — users can be readers and consumers of posts at the same time they are also writers and producers of content. Let me add that fake identities in heterolinational era are not limited to social media. They can happen in books published by traditional publishers, too. One recent example is Carmen Mola, the celebrated female Spanish thriller writer, who eventually was revealed to be three men after a €1 million literary prize lured them out of anonymity! Soon after one of their books won the lucrative Planeta Prize, Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz, and Antonio Mercero appeared on the stage to receive the prize. The “collaborative and multiple authorship”[40] in contrast to the used-to-be trend of “solitary authorship”[41] is another trait of heterolinationalism, meaning that collaboration between different parties, even in writing successful fiction books, recur in heterolinationality. Naturally, with their different orientations and perspectives, each of the co-creators involved in writing offers different words and worlds in such a collective and collaborative atmosphere.

Furthermore, in heterolinationality, digitalism affects conventional print fictions. As an example, Jennifer Egan writes, or rather presents, the entire Chapter 12 of her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011) in the form of PowerPoint slides. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Alison Blake, a twelve-year-old American girl, creates a slideshow presentation, consisting of charts and diagrams, to visualize her family life. Out of 76 slides used in the chapter, 6 slides, including 11, 16, 30, 45, 54, and 62, are played with rock and roll music, and those who read the chapter on their, for example, iPad or laptop, can listen to music, too. On one hand, the employment of PowerPoint slides in the book shows the enormous impacts of digitalism on younger generations and their engagements with it. On the other hand, it manifests that writing conventions in our digitally mediated world do not remain untouched. It is worth noting that the ubiquity of the social media in life represents a typical image of a media-saturated society that has turned the societies into mediatized spaces. Images of people who always have their cellphones or laptops in cafés and streets, at airports and homes, on buses and trains – flicking through their social media pages, reading posts and typing with both hands – are common nowadays, showing that pens are used along with fingers and papers alongside keypads and screens.

I argue here that with the spread of social media outlets and self-publishing means, (de)legitimizing literary products and dividing them into desirable and undesirable literature based on the names and rankings of their publishers, continues in the new era. A number of heterolinational literary products, especially by discrete subgroup authors in homogeneous societies, go through the trivialization process. Consequently, such works that are underrated due to their lingual, cultural, and racial disparities experience the risk of abortion or miscarriage, and if they are born, they do not normally grow. Accordingly, the growth of heterolinational literatures is uncertain. However, the totalizing fundamentals of such societies gradually appear old-fashioned through the passage of time, and constructive measures taken by a number of cultural activists and organizations catalyze the de-alienation process and acceptance of alienated literatures. We admit that the passage of time makes changes in people’s perceptions and the ways they embrace different concepts, genres, and ideas once seen as banal, weird, or unacceptable. It also changes users’ cultural, artistic, and literary tastes and paves the way for culturalizing heterolinational literatures. Thus, today’s unwelcomed and underrated literature is tomorrow’s literary history. As Eagleton writes in his After Theory, “[m]uch of the world as we know it, despite its solid, well-upholstered appearance, is of recent vintage.”[42] This means that what is produced now as heterolinational literatures might be acclaimed later, even though some literary agents, readers, and publishers do not put their trust in them in the present time.[43] The opposite, however, may occur, and what is praised now will be later criticized as mediocre literature.

It is my contention that in heterolinationality, the otherness also succeeds to locate itself through different platforms and attain further visibility and readability than before. Thus, after the trivialization process, the normalization process takes place, meaning that readers do not feel strange about heterolinational literatures by subgroups and show interest in their contents, themes, and messages. The organization of literary events and translation of a selected number of “minor” literary products, plus the nomination of writers for national and international literary prizes, which stand for culturalization, would speed up the normalization process. In this context, multilingual and multicultural subgroups of writers grow, and host societies and their canonized institutions recognize them, and, as one would expect, the popularity of heterolinational literatures increases. However, normalization is not achieved overnight. Depending on the level of openness of societies, this process can be fast or slow. Thus, with any work written and published in different forms and platforms, one further step is taken toward popularity of heterolinational literatures.

5. Heterolinational Rewriters: Transtextuality and Fanfiction

As another coordinate of heterolinational literatures, transtextuality provides the ground for authors to recycle different ideas, proverbs, maxims, and motifs originating from different languages, worldviews, and literatures. While writing a work, heterolinational writers might appropriate and reuse in their own works some passages and slants written by other writers in their own native languages and other languages they know. The representation, translation, and transformation of those words and ideas in another language and literary work create transtextuality. In this light, the work becomes postnational, postcultural, and heterolinational in what might seem a collection of ideas from different cultures, languages, and literatures. Transtextuality forms a mosaic built out of the juxtaposition of variety of ideas, languages, styles of writing, genres, and intertexts interwoven in different patterns represented by an author in a new area and era. In this light, transtextuality brings about modes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization.

Like transtextuality, fanfiction writing goes through deterritorialization and reterritorialization process. Fanfictions written by fans from different nationalities and in different languages feature titles and characters from pre-existing published literary works. However, fanfiction writers hammer the original story based on their different mindsets, cultures, and loci. These rewriters continue stories, add their own narratives, invent new beginnings and endings, and update the stories’ themes based on current trends. In this process, tenses are changed; marginal and central characters are recast; characters’ genders are transformed; settings are updated; focalizations and points of views are changed; chapters are retitled; and endings are left open. In addition, the fanfiction writers can blend elements of several works together and create hyper-hybrid works. In this climate, characters of different works meet in new settings, while their race and gender have differed beyond our expectations.

This is an attempt to intervene in the text, to decenter and recenter their elements according to the desires of rewriters. Rob Pope refers to these types of interventions as “textual” and “contextual interventions.”[44] The outcomes of such interventions are the transformation of readership into authorship, which makes fan works diverse. While some pieces of fanfiction are serious works, others take a more fantastical route. As rewriters expand on stories based on their imaginations, languages, and orientations, they naturally rewrite texts differently. This is not to “treat authorship as a unified phenomenon of culture that emerged in a single historical or theoretical space.”[45] In this climate, authorship is not a fixed and final entity. Rather, in heterolinationality, all works, even those published centuries ago, are modes of expression in the process of completion. Accordingly, authorship and its products are not confined to a single stream, language, and nationality. Based on this situation, like in postmodernism, the conventional notion of authors as individual creators with “author”ity[46] over their works changes in heterolinationalism, and “authors of becoming” replace the “author of being.”[47]

Nowadays, there are plenty of fanfictions in almost all genres of fiction. For instance, some of Jane Austen’s novels have been mined to create transformative fan works. In her novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), American novelist Seth Grahame-Smith parodies Austen’s 1813 classic novel Pride and Prejudice. Grahame-Smith even lists Austen on the book’s cover as her co-author. The neo-novel adds some elements of modern zombie fiction to Austen’s novel. Following the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, several other fanfictions pairing classical works with modern horror themes have been created. One example is Ben H. Winters, who has rewritten Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) while, just like Grahame-Smith, naming Jane Austen as his own co-author. Winters’ novel contains elements from Austen’s 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility and common tropes from sea monster stories. As another example, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was rewritten by American novelist and screenwriter Linda Woolverton as a screenplay, entitled Alice in Wonderland (2009). In this fanfiction, the nineteen-year-old Alice, a judo instructor, returns to the Wonderland 144 years later and reunites with her old friends, including Alice’s boyfriend Jack, to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror. Throughout the fanfiction, Alice claims that she is not the same Alice who fell down the rabbit hole. Rather, she struggles to display female empowerment and motivate other characters to use their power for their common mission.

I should note that fan works written based on Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are not limited to the above cases, and numerous fanfictions have been produced based on these novels, which signifies the plurality in this area. Among the other fanfictions written based on, for example, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I can mention Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling (2014) by Lara S. Ormiston, Ardently: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (2015) by Caitlin Williams, A Will of Iron: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (2015) by Linda Beutler, Unwilling: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary (2016) by Elizabeth Adams, and This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (2016) by Christina Morland. Since these fanfiction writers come from diverse regional, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, they intervene in the texts differently, and even though they all rewrite one fiction book, their identities influence their writings to a varying degree. As a result, their fan works promote diversity, add to literature’s rich tapestry, and enrich the medium as a whole.

To sum up, in heterolinationality, authors — academic and non-academic, local and immigrant, native and non-native — produce a vast array of literary texts, and their writings make literature polylithic. Accordingly, it is impossible to cram heterolinational literatures into a single unit. In such a heterolinational climate, the number of exophonic, hyphenated and immigrant authors grows and their outputs as heterolinational literatures challenge the orthodox normative parameters of literary intelligentsia. The subgroup writers, who usually have difficulty breaking into print by commercial publishers, find miscellaneous outlets, including social media platforms and self-publishing means, to release their literary and cultural products. However, a large number of subgroup authors, who use other options rather than traditional, well-known publishers to release their works, might have lower chances of winning enough visibility and readability, simply because many readers do not get informed of the existence of such works, and if they do, they might look down at such products. In spite of such challenges, via acculturation, multilingual and multicultural subgroup writers, who have been questioned by the orthodoxy, continue to flourish in heterolinationality and become the orthodoxy, losing their raison d’etre as outside writers, and their works further find their way to bookshelves and reading lists. Moreover, in heterolinationality, co-authors sometimes replace a single one, and their works, written in a collaborative atmosphere, include different outlooks and vantage points. Transtextuality and fanfiction that renew old literature also prevail in heterolinationality. Transtextual rewriters reterritorialize and represent ideas from other works, languages, and cultures in their works, while fanfiction writers intervene in texts written even centuries ago, showing that authorship and its products are not fixed and final entities. Rather, they are prone to change and modification in different eras and areas.


Mehdi Ghasemi

Mehdi Ghasemi is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of English at the University of Turku and a senior researcher at the University of Tampere, Finland. He is also a fiction writer, writing his books in the hybrid genre of “noveramatry” (a combination of novel, drama and poetry). He has already published five scholarly books, four fiction books, one literary anthology, and more than twenty scholarly papers in peer-reviewed, high-quality journals, including Orbis Litterarum, Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of Literary Studies, European Journal of American Studies, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, SAGE Open, Immigrant and Minorities and The CEA Critic.

Published July 14, 2022.

Cite this article: Mehdi Ghasemi, “Post-postmodernism and the Emergence of Heterolinational Literatures,” Contemporary Aesthetics 20 (2022), (accessed date).



[1] Linda Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism (New York & London: Routledge, 2002), 181.

[2] See Gilles Lipovetsky, Hypermodern Times (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005).

[3] See Robert Samuels, “Auto-Modernity after Postmodernism: Autonomy and Automation in Culture, Technology, and Education,” in Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected, edited by Tara McPherson, 219-240 (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008).

[4] See Alan Kirby, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture (New York and London: Continuum, 2009).

[5] See Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, “Notes on Metamodernism.” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, vol. 2, no. 1, 2010, 1-14.

[6] See Mehdi Ghasemi, “Hyperhybridism: Postmodernism Is Old but Not Old Fashioned,” in Movement and Change in Literature, Language and Society, edited by Joel Kuortti and Sirkku Ruokkeinen, 153-170 (Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos, Akademia Philosophical Studies, 2020).

[7] Ibid., 159.

[8] Mehdi Ghasemi, Opening Boundaries: Toward Heterolinational Literatures (Helsinki: BoD, 2019), 8.

[9] John Carlos Rowe, “Postmodernist Studies,” in Redrawing the Boundaries, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn, pp. 179-208 (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992), 187.

[10] De Villo Sloan, “The Decline of American Postmodernism,” SubStance 16.3 (Issue 54, 1987), 42.

[11] Grazia Micheli, “The pursuit of lightness: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Italophone Writing,” From the European South 9 (2021), 124.

[12] Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words, trans. Ann Goldstein (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2016), 81.

[13] Julie Hakim Azzam, “In Other Words: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Deep Dive into Italian,” Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 28 February 2016,

[14] Shaj Mathew, “Jhumpa Lahiri’s Roman Holiday,” New Republic, 28 January 2016,

[15] Mark Currie, About Time: Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 3.

[16] Rowe, 191.

[17] Thomas Docherty, After Theory (London: Routledge,1990), 52.

[18] Ibid., 52.

[19] Ibid., 55.

[20] Vijay Prashad, Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: Sfro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity (Boston: Beacon, 2001), 66.

[21] Docherty, 214.

[22] Benjamin Zephaniah, Refugee Boy (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2001), 13.

[23] Ibid., 16-17.

[24] Ibid., 18.

[25] Ibid., 23.

[26] Ibid., 33.

[27] Mieke Bal, “Making Meaning with Mistakes,” in Imperfections Studies in Mistakes, Flaws, and Failures, edited by Caleb Kelly, Jakko Kemper and Ellen Rutten, 51-82 (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022), 52.

[28] Ibid., 51.

[29] Ibid., 52.

[30] Terry Eagleton, After Theory (London: Penguin, 2004), 90.

[31] Docherty, 58.

[32] Sophie Chou, “How to speak like an aliebn — no, that’s not a typo,” The World in Words. 27 September 2017,

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Mark Currie, About Time: Narrative, Fiction and Philosophy of Time (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 31.

[36] Ebony. “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Her Award-Winning Americanah.” 11 March 2014:

[37] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “New Writing and Nigeria: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Helen Oyeyemi in Conversation.” Wasafiri 21.1 (2006), 56.

[38] Glen Duncan, “The Origin of a Monster,” Borders Blog, 18 June 2011,

[39] Kevin Ponniah, “Behrouz Boochani: Refugee who wrote book using WhatsApp wins top prize,” 15 September 2019,

[40] Andrew Bennett, The Author: The New Critical Idiom (New York: Routledge, 2005), 98.

[41] Ibid., 95.

[42] Eagleton, 7.

[43] In the world of arts, graffiti has become mainstreamed into the artworld while it used to either neglected or denigrated as vandalism. However, nowadays it has become a bona fide member of the artworld.

[44] Rob Pope, Textual Intervention: Critical and Creative Strategies for Literary Studies (New York: Routledge, 1995), 15.

[45] David Saunders, Authorship and Copyright (New York: Routledge, 1992), 8.

[46] Mehdi Ghasemi, “Sleep, Death’s Twin Brother: A Quest for Postmodern Identities in The Death of the Last Black Man,” Orbis Litterarum, 70. 2 (2015), 155.

[47] Mehdi Ghasemi, Quest/ion of Identities in African American Feminist Postmodern Drama: A Study of Selected Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks (Turku: Painosalama oy, 2016), 12.